UN, Undisclosed Envoys Moonlight "When Actually Employed," G-4 Visas and
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, May 3, update May 9 -- In the murky world of part-time UN
envoys, some are paid at a top per diem rate, while others get on paper only one
dollar a year. There are approximately 12 of these "dollar a year" envoys, UN
spokeswoman Marie Okabe told Inner City Press on Thursday.
declined to provide a list, nor to state how many additional officials are paid
"When Actually Employed." Inner City Press on May 2 learned of one such official
-- former humanitarian coordinator Jan Egeland -- and then of another, Terje
Roed-Larsen, who doubles as president of the International Peace Academy and as
the UN's envoy to Lebanon and Syria. While there, he apparently gets two
paychecks, and in some views impermissibly has two masters. [See update of
May 9, below.]
however, appears blithely unconcerned. Thursday at the UN's noon briefing, Inner
City Press: Yesterday, I was told that Jan Egeland and other people are paid on
this "whenever actually employed" basis. That they're paid as a USG but just
for the days that they work. But they have another employer. Are they also
paid by the other employer at the same time? Meaning, are they serving two
masters? And what's the review process? ...Who in the UN reviews whether
someone working for the UN and also a private entity, that there's not a
conflict? What's the process?
Spokesperson: Yes, if they are working as a part-time job, they are paid from
their other employer. Well, you'd have to ask them about their other employer.
In terms of if there's a conflict of interest, that's something that the OHRM,
our Human Resources Department, would be vetting and, if necessary, with the
advice of our Legal Department.
City Press: How many "whenever actually employed" people are there working for
the UN? And can we get a list of those?
Spokesperson: I think we've mentioned this from this podium. But, as you know,
the new Secretary-General is still in the process of reviewing the various
senior officials. So as soon as the line-up is complete, we will obviously let
City Press: Can we even just know the current line-up? I'm not saying like who
he's going to appoint. I got a sense yesterday when I got your answer
that I didn't know how many of them that there are.
Spokesperson: I think there is a review process going on. So I don't think
we'll have anything available until that is complete. But if I can get you
something, I will.
Thursday afternoon, Inner City Press went and asked Ms. Okabe if
anything at all was available. She gave a number for the "dollar a years" ---
twelve, and note that beyond the dollar a year, they receive hundreds of dollars
a daily in DSA, Daily Sustenance Allowance. But as to When Actually Employeds --
WAEs -- she declined to even provide an estimate. Who are they? Where are
they? And this When Actually Employed status, what is it and when did it begin.
"Let Us Count the WAEs"
City Press' research, after the above-referenced refusal for two days to list
the WAEs, finds that the status began in 1996 in one of Kofi Annan's Bulletins,
ST/SGB/283, entitled "Use of 'When Actually Employed' Contracts for Special
Representatives, Envoys and Other Special High-Level Positions."
Bulletin specifies that WAE "letter of appointment shall state that the holder
has the status of a staff member of the United Nations only when actually
employed by the United Nations." Given that each WAE requires a six-month letter
of appointment, it is not credible that the UN cannot come up with a list of the
WAEs. In fact, if the UN had implemented the Freedom of Information procedures
it has long promised, such letters of appointment could be requested and
obtained without strife or supplication.
is a nexus between WAE status and obtaining and retaining G-4 visa status in the
United States. If not a WAE, a temporary employee would lose their G-4 visa upon
separation from service with the UN. But there is a WAE around this, with six
months letter of contract on a sometime on, sometimes off basis. See Information
Circular ST/IC/1996/149 of August 1996.
City Press' May 3 noon briefing question, the last time the words "When Actually
Employed" came up in a UN noon briefing was in
in connection with Oil for Food, and even then referred back to a particular WAE
from 1999 to 2002:
Question: You've probably seen the reports that Jean-Bernard Merimee, the
former French Ambassador and Kofi Annan's own Under-Secretary-General has now
been taken into custody in Paris, in connection with the "oil-for-food"
scandal. What can you say about that? What is the Secretary-General's position
about yet another one of his key people now under scrutiny?
Spokesman: Two things. I would correct what you said in the question. Mr.
Merimee is not an Under-Secretary-General at the UN. He served from 1999 to
2002 as a special advisor when actually employed at the USG level. But that was
from '99 to 2002.
So who are the WAEs now? Terje Roed-Larsen, we know, accompanied
Ban Ki-moon to Syria.
Roed-Larsen, working for UN, and at least one other master
Based on what sources detailed, Inner City Press asked the
Spokesperson's Office to provide:
my requests to Marie for the timing of Mr. Ocampo's replacement (current Chinese
ambassador to the UN in Geneva) beginning, and the specifics of the position(s)
and compensation -- dollar figures -- for Jan Egeland (and other similar
non-full time and/or dollar a year individuals, including the one Marie named,
T.R. Larsen. Separately, is it possible to confirm or deny that on Mr. Ban's
recent trip to Syria, the Syrian Foreign Minister openly criticized T.R. Larsen
in front of Mr. Ban? If so, what was Mr. Ban's response? Had T.R. Larsen been
slated to attend the meeting with Assad?
does the UN have any response to the (BBC-reported) complaint against MONUC and
UNDP for not paying more than $50 each to the disabled Congolese who wrote the
election song distributed by UNDP?"
Egelend and Roed-Larsen questions, the following came back:
In lieu of noon briefing, questions: UNJSPF, Larsen/Egeland, MONUC
From: [Associate spokesperson at] un.org
To: Matthew Russell Lee
Sent: Wed, 2 May 2007 3:15 PM
have figures for Jan Egeland, who's just begun working with us, but Larsen's
contract is When Actually Employed; that is, he is paid at USG scale for the
actual number of days each year in which he's doing UN work.
Larsen's meetings in Syria -- he didn't meet with Assad, whose meeting with the
SG was tete-a-tete (and therefore included no other officials on either
side); but Larsen and Geir Pedersen, the SRSG for Lebanon, did accompany the SG
when he met with Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem and Vice President Farouk al-Shara.
You'd have to ask the Syrians about their opinions of Larsen -- certainly they
were willing to meet with him, as with the rest of the team.
To this were add two one-liners:
from Ban Ki-moon's Spokesperson's office: "Egeland is also When
[Note: this doesn't address the issue of being paid as a USG and
by a private NGO at the same time] and
from DPA: "yes Jan Egeland has begun doing work under this
Yet no one will say how much he's getting paid, nor what
OHRM would do if a proposed WAE USG had a day job with Halliburton, for example,
or an arms manufacturer. The head of OHRM, Jan Beagle, has allowed and engaged
in numerous conflicted acts, and Ban Ki-moon is reportedly considering shifting
her to an ASG position within DESA, whose new director for some reason
won't begin until July 1. At Thursday's noon briefing, a Fox-like correspondent
asked about rumors that DESA's Guido Bertucci may retire, before investigations
into his acts have been completed. The Spokesperson's office answered later: "Bertucci's
retirement was not until July 2008."
Press also asked about the status of the 90 day "urgent audit" into UNDP in
North Korea which Ban Ki-moon ordered 103 days ago -- are the auditors even
getting into North Korea? Ms. Okabe replied that they haven't even tried. But
what then was the purpose of Ban Ki-moons' February 28 letter to the North
Korean mission, asking for assistance with the audit? From the
City Press: I thought the Secretary-General had written to North Korea on 28
February and you all announced it on 6 March that he'd written to North Korea
saying please help my auditors. So if they weren't even going to apply for a
visa, what was the thinking behind that letter? Can you say why Ban Ki-moon
wrote to North Korea and said help me if in fact there was no help needed?
Spokesperson: You'd have to ask the Board of Auditors.
City Press: He wrote the letter.
Spokesperson: Ever since he called for or he asked the ACABQ to request the
audit, there have been a number of steps. Actually what it was, it was that
DPRK, I believe, is the one who sent him a letter expressing their concerns and
he responded back to DPRK about their concerns. I think that's the letter
you're referring to.
City Press: Yeah, but he said help us.
Spokesperson: But again, you'd have to ask the Board of Auditors because
they're the ones who investigated. We don't know how much cooperation or
non-cooperation they are receiving... the ACABQ which I mentioned is the body
that requested the audit is starting to meet on 14 May. So my understanding
again is that at this session there will be something presented.
City Press: I also remember Michele said something like 'the clock is ticking.'
So it's ticking. Yesterday, we had a meeting of the Committee to Protect
Journalists and they made a list of the 10 backsliding countries. Number 3 was
the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where obviously the UN has had a big
presence for many years. So a question that was raised, and obviously they
didn't know because they just did the report, what is the UN, DPKO and other
parts of the UN system doing in countries where they have a big presence to
actually actualize and implement freedom of the press? If incidents take place
in countries where they have a big presence, do they speak to the Government?
Just in DRC for example -- where they were almost running the country -- how
does the UN itself actually implement freedom of press on the ground, in
countries like Haiti, where journalists are killed, or like the DRC?
Spokesperson: I'll check in the DRC for you.
correspondent was later told that, in the case of the Democratic Republic of the
Congo, the UN Mission there, as part of its general mandate, monitors human
rights conditions and protests violations of press freedom.]
And so what is the UN's reaction to the DRC, where it has 20,000
personnel "monitor[ing] human rights conditions and protest[ing] violations of
press freedom" being ranked the three worst backslider in the world? On the
above-mentioned music royalties complaint in the Congo, Inner City Press was
told by an Associate Spokesperson that the UN has no response, to the lawsuit by
disabled musicians whose tunes UNDP distributed, since the money went through a
DRC agency, and it wasn't "commercial" anyway. So screw the disabled musicians
-- we paraphrase for UNDP. Happy
Update of May 9
-- after Inner City Press had been told that, like Jan Egeland, Terje Roed-Larsen
is paid When Actually Employed -- that is, at the rate of an Under Secretary
General, but only on days actually spent on or in the Middle East -- now Larsen
states that he is a volunteer. His travel and expenses are covered. This Daily
Sustenance Allowance can runs to hundreds of dollars a day. But duly noted.
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540
UN, Mobility Defended, Member States Invoked, Pension Fund Video Screened and
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, April
27 -- On April 25, the UN Staff Union voted overwhelmingly to call on Secretary
General Ban Ki-moon to suspend his
requiring staff mobility, the changing of jobs and even countries every five
years. On April 27, Under Secretary General Alicia Barcena took ten questions
from staff members, nearly all of which were critical of the mobility plan. Many
of the comments asked for a delay until the UN's internal justice system is
slated for 2009.
who has asked to be identified only as "a long time staff member," and about
whose case Inner City Press later asked Ms. Barcena, stated that she was told on
April 24 that she must "become mobile" on May 1. She stated that she is not
against the idea of mobility. In fact, she has applied for several dozen other
UN jobs, but has yet to be selected. She described a process in which, fearing
she would be on the mobility list, she asked the UN Office of Human Resources
Management. OHRM told her to ask her unit's executive officer, who told her to
ask her program manager -- who referred her back to OHRM.
to hear your concerns," Ms. Barcena said at the beginning of the meeting. " We
could do better." This is a disarming opening, and one not heard often enough
these days at the UN. But as the complaints piled up, the purpose became less
clear of hearing the concerning. "The member states have told us we must do
this," Ms. Barcena said.
Ki-moon on the move, in UN cafeteria. Mrs. Ban reportedly ate there as well,
decidedly non-scientific poll, Inner City Press asked the Sudanese Permanent
Representative to the UN, Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem,
what he thought of staff mobility. (The conference room in which the mobility
Town Hall meeting was held was needed by 3 p.m. by the Group of 77, of which
Sudan is a member.) "Never heard of it," Amb. Abdalhaleem said. He added, "They
can come to Darfur."
In search of more pertinent or up-to-date
information, Inner City Press sought out a representative of the Staff Council,
who argued that the rush to mandatory mobility is not what the General Assembly
had in mind, and indicated that the President of the General Assembly has come
to share this view. Time will tell on this last.
Even on her way into the meeting, Ms.
Barcena stopped to emphasize to Inner City Press how few staff members will be
impacted in this first, "transitional" round: 61 staff at the P-3 level, 25 of
them in New York, and 97 staff at the G-7 level, 16 of them in New York. In a
sign of the need for reform, at least of data bases, Ms. Barcena said that
initial computer runs indicated that 433 P-3 staff fell within the definition.
"We looked more closely and it was only sixty one," she said. "We have work to
do with our database." You might say so.
At Friday's town hall meeting, the
questioners included a self-described "friend of your predecessor" -- that is,
of Chris Burnham, now at Deutsche Bank -- who said the member states want the UN
staff to be efficient, and this is only possible in conditions of happiness and
fulfillment, i.e. of job- and post-security. He added that if, as Ban Ki-moon
told the staff this month, "this is the staff's house," the staff should be
consulted before being told to move room to room. Ms. Barcena answered this by
analogizing the Addis Ababa duty station to a room that is not so popular. But
is this changed by incentives -- extra pay, more frequent home leave and
accelerated promotion, for example -- or by requiring people to go there?
A staff representative from the
translation unit questioned, "Why are we investing in annoying twenty five
people?" This drew laughter and applause from the crowd, and a retort from Ms.
Barcena, that there might well be a translator in the Nairobi duty station who
would like to live in New York.
One questioner asked if behind the
mobility plan is not the United States, wanting to reduce the number of G-4
visas. "Not that I'm aware of," Ms. Barcena said, adding, "I am Mexican, can you
imagine?" This too drew laughter.
More seriously, a woman asked what would
happen if her children did not want to go to Africa but rather remain in school
in the United States. Ms. Barcena acknowledged that these visa issues need to be
reviewed. One editorial suggestion: if the U.S. in fact is in support of this
mandatory mobility plan, concomitant visas flexibility could be requested.
Similarly, given the U.S. stated interest in reform and the rights of
whistleblowers, extended G-4 visas for any UN staff who blow the whistle is an
issue whose time has come.
There were also anachronism issues. A
staff who is a graphic designer noted that although she is at the G-6 level, she
has been told, not in writing, that she is subject to mobility in November. But
UN duty stations other than New York have all outsource graphic design, so there
is no job for her to go to.
One questioner offered the suggestion
that the UN hold an "e-referendum" on the mobility plan. Ms. Barcena indicated
that this idea will be considered. She also stated that no one will be forced,
no one will lose their jobs, we can put it in writing. While some in the Staff
Union say they've heard that said before, at some point the wiggle-room is gone,
it is put it writing or it is not. Either way, we'll be there.
In terms of applying for jobs, it was
stated at the meeting that the UN will now move away from its "Galaxy" system --
reportedly designed by Jonathan Blankson, subsequently discredited and suspended
for falsifying his degree and resume -- to another "e-staffing tool."
Interviewed after the meeting by Inner
City Press, Ms. Barcena emphasized that the mobility plan would not in fact
begin on May 1, since rules still have to be published, and that impacted staff
members would be met with one by one. An observer said that those who spoke out
might be spared, as might those from countries like Japan, which pay a lot of
money to the UN but are under-represented in the staff. The person in charge of
this shared the rostrum with Ms. Barcena, with bright white hair and a bright
red top: Jan Beagle. In interviewing UN staff, nearly all road lead to Ms.
Beagle, and yet she is rarely seen throughout the headquarters building, at
least by the press corps.
Ms. Beagle spoke once during the meeting,
to emphasize that the New York Staff Union has chosen not to participate in a
staff-management meeting where mobility was discussed, in 2006 in Nairobi. Ms.
Barcena later softened this indirect accusation, saying that the next such
meeting, in June 2007, will be held in New York to make participation by the
headquarters staff union more likely. We'll have more on this.
On the issue of the UN Joint Staff Union
Pension Fund, Ms. Barcena said she had met earlier in the day with Pension Fund
CEO Bernard Cocheme, and would be meeting Monday with the Fund's Investment
Committee. Inner City Press asked Ms. Barcena if she'd received and seen a new
"Asset-Liability Study" DVD. Ms. Barcena indicated that it had been received,
but she'd yet to see it, and was assuming the disk contained a written text. But
no -- it is a 37 minute video of two men talking, to each other and the camera.
Some have likened it to the Mike Myers movie "Wayne's World" about public access
cable television. In it, unequivocal praise is delivered by Robert T. McCrory
and one Neil Rue. ("You'll Rue the day," one of Inner City Press' co-watchers
remarked.) It is not clear why these consultants, PCA Inc. and EFI Actuaries,
thought that such a video was needed. Nor is it clear how the video will be used
-- can it now justify the proposed outsourcing of $9 billion of the Pension
Fund? We'll see.
Coming full circle to mobility, Ms.
Barcena confirmed that Japan's Chieko Okuda is as reported leaving her spot as
head of investments at the Pension Fund. That post, Ms. Barcena indicated, can
be filled in-house. Like they say, mobility...
UN, Ban's Mobility Plan is Panned by Staff Union, Complaints of Favoritism
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, April
25 -- Since becoming Secretary General 115 days ago, Ban Ki-moon and his
of UN staff. The first step, slated to begin May 1, involves beginning to
require job changes after five years.
Wednesday the UN Staff Union passed a resolution calling on Ban to in essence
stop the mobility. The UN's Conference Room 3 was packed, and when one speaker
demanded to know, "are there any people with common sense" within Ban's Office
of Human Resources Management, the crowd broke into a mixture of laughs and
were also complaints about Mr. Ban's April 12 town hall meeting with staff,
which one participant characterized as "like a game show," in which staff
members in New York could not get answers to questions because of grandiose
attempts to patch in video connections in Vienna and elsewhere. There was with
Ban, one speaker said, "no meaningful interaction."
response, the Ban administration has hastily scheduled for Friday another town
hall meeting at which Under Secretary General for Management
will discuss the issue. Several staff members interviewed by Inner City Press
asked why the mobility plan's main promoter, Assistant Secretary General for
OHRM Jan Beagle, was not stepping up to answer questions.
Staff Union has already passed a resolution calling on Ban to remove Ms. Beagle
for OHRM, without effect. In the mobility fight, the grievance of the Staff
Union shift from personalities to policies and potentially to litigation, if
only before the UN's in-house Administrative Tribunal. The resolution passed
Wednesday allocates $150,000 from the Union's reserve fund "as a legal defense
fund to address enforced mobility of staff members if and when it occurs."
the key word, that the Ban administration does not mention but which was
repeated throughout Wednesday's Union meeting: enforced. At its simplest, Ban's
mobility would require New York-based staff to go find jobs in the field after
five years at headquarters. The selling-point of the idea is that it would allow
the UN's far-flung workers to come and take jobs in New York. But many of the
staff members interviewed by Inner City Press expressed skepticism, saying that
for now, the UN runs on favoritism and the allocation of jobs by nationality.
Until this and other problems are fixed, the mobility plan should not to
forward, they said.
mobile? Mr. Ban leaves Syria, bound for New York
Wednesday's meeting, there were at least eight votes against the Union's
resolution, and five abstentions. One of those voting no, who asked that his
name not be used "because I have to work with these people" told Inner City
Press that mobility is needed, that people get "frozen" in their UN jobs, are
not flexible. A number of people who voted for the resolution hurried to add
that they have no problem with the idea of mobility. From the floor of
the meeting, one of the abstainers said that Ban is still relatively new and
should be given time.
speakers on Wednesday questioned by Ban would start the mobility plan with the
lower levels of professional staff, and those in general service, rather than
closer to the top. The head of UN peacekeeping, for example, Jean-Marie Guehenno
of France, has held the post for longer than five years. Several staff members
with whom Inner City Press spoke on Wednesday questions by the head of OHRM Jan
Beagle was not the first to be subjected to enforced mobility and "scam," as one
of them put it. The answer is, Ms. Beagle's country New Zealand demands she
keep the post, as do the other members of the so-called CANZ group, Canada and
point out that natives of the CANZ countries have been receiving a
disproportionate number of posts. This is how the UN works. "Mobility is for
suckers," one staff member said. "It would only be enforced on those without
the more interesting questions raised at the Union meet was by its First Vice
President, Emad Hassanin, who pointed out that only some General Assembly
resolutions are implemented, and sometimes only parts of resolutions. Who can
ensure action on what the General Assembly passes, in the few fields in which it
actually has power? That remains a question without an answer.
Union president Stephen Kisambira told those in attendance that, as to their
Pension Fund, the long awaited "Asset Liability Study" has been released. Inner
City Press is told by multiple sources that the study is in fact a DVD, 30-some
minutes in length, that is not supposed to be copied, only shown in the presence
of their authorized to have it. The significance is that the proposed
outsourcing of $9 billion of the pension fund had been de facto put on hold
pending the completion of the study. Mr. Kisambira pointed out that a committee
now deliberating on the Pension Fund has no staff member as a representative on
it; he said that one committee member told him this is because the topic is "too
technical" for staff members. It is, however, their pension money.
is slated to take questions from the press on Thursday, upon his return from
and Syria, and Ms. Barcena will take them from the staff on Friday. Will Ban's
mobility move forward? That too is a question without for now an answer.
UNCA-gate, Mr. Ban's Dig from Geneva Leads to Speechwriter Questions in New York
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April
24 -- Speaking at a dinner for the correspondents' association at the UN in
Genera on April 21, Ban Ki-moon began with a statement which his spokesperson
has since characterized as a joke, and which is quoted from below.
Doubtless, there is a place for more humor in the UN system, on both sides of
the Atlantic. And written transcripts cannot convey tone of voice or winks, if
any. But the main job of a diplomat is to master communications. Lack of
clarity, as the Federal Reserve's Alan Greenspan used to do it, should be
intentional. It is difficult to imagine that the parochial echo in New York on
Tuesday to Mr. Ban's Saturday remarks had been intended.
here are Ban's remarks, as emailed to reporters by the UN on April 23:
SG: "Mr. President of the Correspondents
Association in Geneva, Ladies and Gentlemen,
"It's a great honor and pleasure for me to
meet all of you. In fact, it is the first time for me to be invited by this
whole Correspondents Association. I have not even been invited by UNCA, the
United Nations Correspondents Association in New York. I hope that this fact,
on the record, should be recorded from Geneva so that our people in New York
know about this. I am personally very much honored. Normally I have been
inviting journalists all the time in my life. It's almost the first time for me
to be invited by an association of correspondents like this one today, and I am
very much personally honored by this event. And thank you very much for your
"There is one thing which I have found,
new information, is that Geneva is the largest UN city in the world, even larger
than the United Nations Headquarters in New York. There are more international
organizations, more diplomatic staff, more conference days in the year. This is
what I have found, in the sense that it may be a real sense of a headquarters of
the United Nations."
at the UN's noon press briefing in New York, these statements were the subject
to the first five questions, out of a total of only thirteen questions. Some are
in true-jest now calling the matter "UNCA-gate," UNCA being pronounced Uhn-Cuh,
the UN Correspondents Association. Five reporters, like this one members of
UNCA, fastened on the statement that "I have not even been invited by UNCA, the
United Nations Correspondents Association in New York. I hope that this fact,
on the record, should be recorded from Geneva so that our people in New York
know about this."
what this meant:
Inner City Press: There was this, I am
sorry if I missed this, there was this speech by Mr. Ban in Geneva, in which he
said that they were the first Correspondents' Association...
Correspondent [UNCA President]: I have to
raise the issue officially. The Secretary-General met with the Association of
Correspondents last week in Geneva, and he told them that we here, [the United
Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA)], have never invited him out. So I
wonder... and we have an official transcript of his remarks. My colleagues were
shocked by the remarks, to say it mildly. I want to ask you, what was the
reason for him to say that and why did he say that, in Geneva, while we had
meetings with him here, in New York, at our invitation. And I am pretty sure
that he enjoyed the meetings, also.
Correspondent [UNCA Past President]: And
also, just to add, we did invite him to the annual UNCA dinner. He was seated
with the [inaudible]. So all proper courtesies were extended to him by UNCA.
Spokesperson: Well, thank you to all
three of you. I am sorry these remarks created a misunderstanding, which I want
to lift immediately. It was meant in a light-hearted way by the
Secretary-General. It was referring to the irritation expressed by some members
of the Geneva press corps that he was not able to travel to our second
headquarters at the Palais des Nations until last week. The comments
were meant in jest, and not intended to be taken seriously. I can assure you,
that the Secretary-General is most appreciative of his meetings with UNCA,
particularly the two gracious invitations extended by you to him early in his
tenure and, most recently, for his 100 days in office. He has told me how
highly he values these informal exchanges and the exchanges he had with the
correspondents' association. And the work you do, covering the UN, is to him
Inner City Press: In his talk there, he
said that Geneva was the largest UN city in the world and that there were more
international organizations and more diplomatic staff. It may be the real UN
headquarters. I am wondering, I donít know if that was a joke as well, but if
anyone could get the numbers, to know what the basis of this is. And also, I
don't know if you will answer this, but who is writing his speeches now, like
what is the process of that?
Spokesperson: I don't know if that was a
speech. [See below.] He just improvised that. He was answering questions after
a lunch. It was not a speech in any way.
Inner City Press: Got you. Can we get
Spokesperson: Sure, sure, you can have
those numbers on how many agencies there are in Geneva, how many people work
there, that you can have. No problem there.
Sunny Correspondent: Just for the record,
some in New York have advocated moving the UN out of New York, butÖ just for the
Correspondent [AP]: I would just like to
make a suggestion that, since the transcript does appear on the UN website, that
perhaps there could be a note attached saying that this was said in jest.
Spokesperson: Well, it is not right now
on the website. It has been sent to you, but it is not on the website.
Correspondent [UNCA President]: Some
diplomatic missions saw the transcript. I got a reaction from some missions
Inner City Press: Maybe there should be a
section on the website for humorous speeches.
hasn't yet happened. As some correspondents remarked later on Tuesday, at first
Mr. Ban's jokes were accorded laughter. His "Ban Ki-moon is coming to town" song
at the UNCA Ball in December (click
to view), his referrals to himself as the Slippery Eel, a more recent statement
-- to UNCA in New York, as it happens -- that "you all must be disappointed in
me." Some wondered: was he joking?
may be the point. The UN Secretary General doesn't intrinsically have much
power. It is a bully pulpit, or place from which to play diplomat. In that game,
if you're going to joke, make sure it's funny, or at least, make sure people who
read it will know it was intended as a joke.
documentation of Mr. Ban's statement that "Geneva is the largest UN city in the
world, even larger than the United Nations Headquarters in New York," a
spokesperson later on Tuesday gave Inner City Press a
one-page print-out from the UN's Geneva
web site, with a sentence
highlighted that "with more than 1,600 staff, it is the biggest duty stations
[sic] outside of the United Nations headquarters in New York." Inner City Press
is informed that during his meeting with the Geneva UN staff union, Mr. Ban said
he had "saved the best for last." And what to say in at the UN's hub in Nairobi?
to which speechwriter is traveling with Mr. Ban, contrary to the UN's
quoted above, the spokesperson began "I don't know who wrote that" -- click
for video, at precisely Minute 10:25.
question of Mr. Ban's speechwriters, it emerges that Edward Mortimer is gone,
and that Richard Amdur is leaving. Coming in, Inner City Press is told, is Mike
Myers -- not from Wayne's World or the bullpen, but from Newsweek. If this Mike
Myers is taking the speechwriters job that was one of the 12 much-hyped mobility
posts, that would be one that should be announced.
Geneva, Mr. Ban, the Swiss president, Mrs. Ban, the Swiss Ambassador to the UN
in New York, Peter Maurer
the few other questions at
Tuesday's noon briefing
went as follows:
Inner City Press: There was a
report on National Public Radio here
yesterday about reports of forced abortions in China...
Is anyone in the UN system aware of this, looking at this, has the UNFPA said
anything, are you aware of this?
Spokesperson: Of course the UNFPA has
been following these issues for a very long time. You can find a number of...
Inner City Press: This was a specific
report of last week about women being forced to go to clinics and forcibly
Spokesperson: No, I donít have a specific
remark on that specific news report.
Inner City Press: There is a
case now that the Supreme Court is
considering whether New York City can collect real estate taxes from portions of
diplomatic missions that are used as residences.
It is the Permanent Mission of India vs. New York. And Mongolia as well, but
the name of the case is India. I know that the US State Department is siding
with the Permanent Mission of India in this case. Does the UN have any position
on the case? Does it feel that all of these premises should be tax exempt.
Spokesperson: We don't have a position on
this at this point. As you know, there is a committee about the relationship
with the Host Country in the General Assembly, and they are handling this type
Cyprus is chairing the Host Country Committee, and its mission has said that a
statement should issue tomorrow. On
forced abortions in China,
Inner City Press called UNFPA's
spokesman Abubakar Dungus, and received this in return:
Subject: COERCIVE ABORTIONS
From: [Spokesperson at] unfpa.org
To: Matthew Russell Lee
Sent: Tue, 24 Apr 2007 4:54 PM
Dear Mr. Lee, Thank you for your call.
Please find below a response, as requested. You may attribute it to Abubakar
Dungus, UNFPA Spokesperson.
"UNFPA, the United Nations Population
Fund, is concerned about reports of coercive abortions in Baise city, China. The
Fund has urgently raised this issue with national authorities and sought
investigations. "Forced abortions are violations of international human rights
standards, including those of the Cairo Population Conference, which state that
coercion has no part to play in family planning.
"UNFPA promotes access to reproductive
health care, including voluntary family planning, skilled birth attendance,
emergency obstetric care and the prevention sexually transmitted infections,
including HIV/AIDS. The Fund also promotes gender equality and the empowerment
"UNFPA provides no assistance in Baise
City. Neither does it support abortion there or anywhere else."
you have it.
Trip to Balkans Slated To Skirt Demonstrations, Hit Ethnic Enclaves, Work the
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April
24 -- As the UN Security Council prepared to begin its trip to Kosovo, Serbia
and Brussels, their itinerary was presented to reporters on Tuesday by Belgian
Ambassador Johan Verbeke, who is heading up the
Since it seemed clear that
Verbeke would not and could not answer
questions about whether or not
Russia would veto a Security Council
resolution of independence,
Inner City Press asked Amb.
planned demonstrations at the
Jarine crossing point between Serbia and
from Minute 24:02.
Verbeke said he had referred to demonstrations under the rubric of "security
dimension," on which he is deferring to UN Under Secretary General for Security,
David Veness. As to which Serb enclave will be visited, Amb.
Verbeke said it has yet to be decided, but that at
least three types of locations will be included: an "Albanian village with
missing persons," a Serb enclave, and a multi-ethnic community. "Comprehensive
and balance," Amb. Verbeke called it. The exact locations remain "to be worked
out," depending on logistics: whether the visits will be by bus or helicopter.
And will this visit impact the
votes of any Council members? Amb. Verbeke would not and could not say. It is
noted that opposition is not limited to Russia. There is the Slovakian
South Africa with its concern about
maintaining borders, and now
Amb Johan Verbeke
Marti Ahtisaari was in Indonesia on Monday, meeting at the State Palace
with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono,
working for that vote on the Council. But afterwards,
state spokesman Dino Pati Djalal told reporters, "We want this problem be
settled peacefully, without triggering new conflicts. For us the most important
thing is a process that can be received by both Kosovo and Serbia."
Signed up for the trip, for Indonesia, is Mr. Hassan Kleib. For Italy, Marcello
Spatofora. For the U.S., new Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who took some few
questions from UN reporters on Tuesday. For the UK, Deputy Ambassador Karen
Pierce. Beyond the Council, but in the EU,
Inner City Press has been told to check into the position on Kosovo of Spain,
and Greece as well.
Press is also told that UNMIK has brought in those in the UN who specialize is
the wind-down and close-down of missions.
something that the visiting Council members may check? Developing.
Steamroller or Slippery Eel, Ban Ki-Moon's 100 Days
at the Helm, Silence Doesn't Help
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, April 12 -- "I have many years to
go," Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told UN staff on Thursday, apologizing for
bureaucratic delays in recruitment and promotion and what he is calling
He could have been directing this "give
me time" plea more widely, as anonymous UN insiders quoted ad nauseam in this
week's "Ban's First Hundred Days" stories have been saying. The critiques, which
Mr. Ban has been closely reading, have focused on the ham-handed introduction of
proposals to split the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations in two, and to
alter the UN's Division of Disarmament Affairs. After acrimony, the proposals
were modified, after Ban mollified UN power players (or steamrollers) whom many
say Ban hadn't sufficiently considered, if only to work around, in the first
To belatedly play the
Hundred-Day, sources-say game, a just-left Ambassador of a Permanent Five
member of the Security Council credited Mr. Ban for acting on what this
ex-Ambassador calls the "Cash for Kim scandal," in which the UN Development
Program was found in withheld internal audits to be paying the Kim Jong Il
regime in hard currency. Ban's reaction,
on January 19,
was to call for an "urgent audit" -- initially worldwide, then
scaled back to only North Korea.
Still, it was said the "urgent audit" would be completed in 90 days. In a
stakeout interview Thursday morning, Inner City Press asked Mr. Ban, video
from Minute 13:12 --
Press: The urgent audit that you called for of UNDP in North Korea, that was
supposed to be done in 90 days, we are almost at that time and they still
haven't finished the terms of reference. So I am wondering is the time for the
audit to be completed going to be extended, and also if the auditors are not
allowed enter the DPRK, what will the UN system do in terms of concluding the
Ban Ki-moon: It
is still under investigation. I do not have anything to tell you at this time.
Whenever I have further information I will let you know.
The background to this (non-)
answer is not only that Mr. Ban was called Slippery Eel by the South Korean
press, but also that Mr. Ban has previously been asked to let the UN Board of
Auditors speak to the press about their work, which
still hasn't happened.
Likewise, Mr. Ban previously said he would instruct his heads of funds and
programs like UNDP's Kemal Dervis to be available to the media.
Mr. Dervis has not held a single press conference since the Cash for Kim scandal
broke. In fact, Mr. Ban's deputy secretary general, Asha Rose Migiro, has yet to
hold a press conference, having so far publicly taken a total of four questions
from the media, including one from Inner City Press about UNDP. Thursday a
"senior UN official," who spoke only on that basis, said that Ms. Migiro will
head up Ban's next structural hot potato, "System-Wide Coherence." Ms. Migiro
will meet Friday on the topic with General Assembly president Sheikha Haya
Rashed Al Khalifa. Good time to take questions? We'll see.
Ban Ki-moon responding to if not answering
questions, on April 12
This being a Hundred-Day,
Sources-Say story, the focus is on management style and on telling details.
Beyond the bungling announcement of the DPKO split, Assistant Secretary General
for Peacekeeping Hedi
Annabi only learned that he is being let go by watching on in-house TV the
noon press briefing of
February 9, at which chief of staff Vijay Nambiar read out a (hit) list.
City Press is informed -- not by Mr. Sach, who now only intermittently replies
to emails -- that UN Controller Warren Sach has yet to know "will I stay or will
I go," even as his contract expires this month. The LA Times' 100 Day
sharper than most, described an incident most UN correspondents had heard, of
Ban Ki-moon rebuking outgoing disarmament chief Nobuaki Tanaka in such a way
that "talk that Ban would not brook dissent ricocheted all the way to U.N.
outposts in Geneva and Vienna."
How openly under Ban UN whistleblowers
can be retaliated against is a question that still hasn't been answered.
Recently a UNDP staffer, close to the Cash for Kim matter, was accused of
leaking information and was told, "You're fired and by the way, you have to
leave the country." UN staff who are not U.S. citizens can be silenced with the
threat of loss of not only their UN jobs, but their ability to stay in the U.S..
This could be fixed, by Ban or the host country. But will it be fixed?
UN staff have other questions,
whether the outsourcing of $9 billion from
their Pension Fund, pushed forward by Kofi Annan's USG for Management Chris
Burnham, will go forward. At
Thursday's town hall meeting, Mr. Ban said he still hasn't decided. Last month,
Mr. Ban passed the hat of being his Pension Fund representative from Warren Sach
to USG for Management Alicia Barcena back to Mr. Sach. Ms. Barcena, among the
most approachable of Team Ban, has told Inner City Press that the switch did not
indicate any change in policy about privatization. But then why switch?
In the town hall meeting, Ban emphasized
the idea of job mobility within the UN system, saying that Ms. Barcena and ASG
for Human Resources Jan Beagle would develop the idea. The Staff Union has
called on Mr. Ban to remove Ms. Beagle from that position, something on which
there's as yet no response.) Nor has there been any announcement of the winners
of the dozen "mobility posts," including a speechwriter's gig, that he announced
months ago. Some staff say those jobs were already handed out. How the winners
are announced will be another test.
Ban has reacted to other
Hundred-Days stories by congratulating reporters, even those
perceived as critical.
There is at the UN something of a symbiosis: the beat reporters see their stars
(and airtime or column inches) rise to the degree that the UN is important and
its Secretary-General articulate and of interest. Recently, some question at Mr.
Ban's press encounters are pre-screened, or at least pre-posed. Perhaps, one wag
wondered, this is how it's done in South Korea.
In fact, the back story to Mr.
Ban's press availability on Thursday was his granting of face time to the South
Korean media on Tuesday. When it was raised, a stakeout was arranged. It's been
during his recent trip through the Middle East, Mr. Ban dined each night with
the South Korean ambassador to the country he was in. Some say that's fine, he
knows these people. Others wonder at entanglements and influence.
In the Cash for Kim audit, an irony's
arisen. Some of the funding that is subject to the audit flowed from South to
North Korea while Mr. Ban was Foreign Minister of South Korea. Inner City Press
has asked the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary General, how much? The
spokesperson to whom such questions are assigned has referred Inner City Press
first to the South Korean mission to the UN (which refused to answer or even
respond), then to the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (where
the spokesperson used to work, with Mr. Ban).
"You can go beg the South
Korean government," Inner City Press was told. Click
for that story. Well, no. The story will be told -- like Mr. Ban said, there are
"many years to go."
For now, we'll close with a seemingly
apples-and-oranges comparison of the first 100 days, in the same state, of Ban
Ki-moon and New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who has asked the press to call him
Versus Slippery Eel: Tale of the Tape After 100 Days
Ban Ki-moon took office promising to
clean up the UN and its reputation, among other things. Eliot Spitzer said the
same, and zeroed in on earmarks in the state budget, and lobbyist disclosure.
While Ban Ki-moon made public his own financial disclosure form, none of the
senior officials he has named has followed suit. Some argue that this must await
action by the UN General Assembly. But Mr. Ban could have conditioned the
granting of posts on the grantee making disclosure.
One similarity is the need to back down.
Spitzer had to back down on the budget, and was roughed up by the union of
health care employees. Ban had to change, for example, his Disarmament program,
had to go down himself -- not only sending chief of staff Vijay Nambiar -- to
mollify the G77, as he will now have to do on System-Wide Coherence. Some say
that the remaining ASG posts will be Ban's carrots to get needed support.
Spitzer has quipped, "if
we solved every problem in 100 days, there would be nothing left for us to do
over the next three years and nine months." Mr. Ban might say the same --
perhaps he meant to -- except that it's FOUR year and nine months. Or maybe NINE
years and nine months. Time alone will tell.
UN, Mayor Bloomberg Talks Global Warming While Fire Department Inspection Is
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN
UNITED NATIONS, April
11 -- As the UN moves toward fixing its headquarters building, while New York's
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announces a rare municipal climate change plan, Ban Ki-moon
and Bloomberg met Wednesday surrounded by issues, surrounded by aides. UN
spokeswoman Marie Okabe after the meeting said that among the topics covered
were how the UN's fix-up, called the Capital Master Plan, could harmonize with
the City's goal of reducing carbon emissions. Inner City Press asked about the
attendance of NYC Fire Department officials.
was a Fire Department inspection" of UN Headquarters, Ms. Okabe said, specifying
that the inspection took place in late 2006. Now, she said, UN Under Secretary
General for Management Alicia Barcena will be following up with the Fire
Commissioner. Because the UN's campus is international territory, longstanding
issues of immunity have more recently flared into tabloid
Press stories earlier
this year about rats and
the UN and no NYC inspections.
Barcena has told Inner City Press not to expect the Capital Master Plan to be
changed from the current version, involving the construction of a temporary
"swing space" on the UN's North Lawn, to larger plan for a new tower south of
42nd Street. Marie Okabe repeated this on-camera on Wednesday, click
Bloomberg and Ban on April 11: can carbon emissions be reduced?
Bloomberg's public schedule for Wednesday, distributed to City Hall reporters at
7 on Tuesday night, included stops at Public School 61 in Queens and at Columbia
University, with no mention of the United Nations. Inner City Press and others
asked the UN press office if Mayor Bloomberg would stop and answer a few
questions. The response was, "Ask City Hall."
afternoon, after having escorted take-no-questions Mayor Bloomberg to his
waiting SUV, Ms. Barcena mentioned the Bloomberg-convened climate change summit
announced earlier in the day. It is slated for May 14-17 and according to City
Hall's press release will involved "mayors from more
than 30 of the world's largest cities, including London, Paris, Tokyo, Mexico
City, Sao Paulo, Moscow and Istanbul. Private sector companies will also be
represented through sponsorship of sessions and events, and having CEOs in
attendance. These companies include: JP Morgan Chase & Co., Alcoa, Deutsche
Bank, the Hearst Corporation, the Shell Oil Company, Siemens, Time Warner, BSKYB,
Citigroup, Con Edison, Federated Department Stores, General Electric, Keyspan,
KPMG LLP, Swiss Re, and Tishman Speyer."
This litany is not unlike the UN's Global
Compact, in which large companies sign on to high-minded principles without
necessarily changing their practices. Musing reporters asked Ms. Barcena what
another item on the agenda, the City's help with Peacekeeping, could possibly
have met. Marie Okabe had referenced New York's "diverse" police force. Police
Commissioner Raymond Kelly has been involved in security in Haiti, and Bernard
Kerik in other places, including for profit. It seems those topics did not come
up, nor the UN's allowance of smoking in Mayor Bloomberg's smokeless city.
One wonders if the UN will have a role in
Mayor Bloomberg's climate summit, given Ban Ki-moon's on-again, off-again
position on holding his own global warming summit. In this case, the warming
appears to be more local and concrete, and to involve the fall-out from the Fire
Department inspection. Developing...
Among the UN
correspondents waiting in the lobby, to try to ask Mayor Bloomberg questions, a
story emerged of a more recent rodent sighting in the Delegates' Dining Room,
reportedly photographed by a visiting Brazilian judge. The same was heard later
from diplomatic sources, which in the UN makes the story true, or as good as
true. We will have more on this.
Other Inner City Press
reports are available in the ProQuest service and some are archived on
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